Posted by: molly | September 14, 2011

Love Your Enemies

On May 1, 2011 Osama bin Laden was shot and killed by U.S. operatives. His body was buried at sea by morning.  One of the most wanted men on the planet was dead.  In the following days American Christians wrestled with one another, some rejoicing at the  death of the wicked and the meting out of God’s justice while others chided their Christian friends to love their enemies.

Bin Laden had become a figurehead of evil, encouraging many to follow his message of hate and destruction.  Though we do not know all of his many crimes, we all agree that he did wrong.  But to many people bin Laden was nothing more than a face on the television–an image on which to pin anger and hate for all those who died from his actions.  He had become more of an idea than a person.  And with his death we hoped to celebrate the end of a chapter of terror rather than simply his flight from earth.

But what if your enemy doesn’t seem so intangible?  What if they are not an idea but a person.  What if they are your power hungry boss who fires you for no reason?  Or your friend who leaves you when you need them most?  The spouse who has decided to give up on you?  Your teenage daughter who declares that she hates you?  The man who tries to abuse your children–or  the one who succeeds?

Spend any amount of time at your local children’s shelter, DSS office, or family court and you will see things that will make the most ardent pacifist take up the sword.  Spend one night counting bruises on the body of a little boy with sad, downcast eyes.  Read a file of a teenage mother who is carrying her step-dad’s child.  Talk with a child who’s mother simply signed her away because parenting was too much work.  Try to explain to your five-year-old why his biological mom just didn’t bother to come and see him like she promised (again).

The hate is natural.  It makes us want to fight.  It makes us want to right all the things in the world that are so wrong.  Our hate can push us to do right things and seek justice.  But yet, we are commanded to love.   Loving your enemy seems so ethereal and hopelessly weak.  And yet, it is anything but that.

I once had the strongest enemy ever.  He is called God.  I ignored him.  I spat in his face.  I cursed him with every breath that he provided for me.  Before I was even born I hated him.  And yet he loved me.

That is where most of us stop when we think about loving our enemies–simple love in the face of every wrong ever done.  Like a bird who buries it’s head in the sand we think we must ignore evil away.  But that is not what God did.  He didn’t change his rules–sin bears the weight of eternal damnation.  Justice must be meted out.  So God did just that.  He took my punishment and condemned his own Son. My sins were not ignored.  They were just paid for by someone else.

Loving my enemy does not mean rolling over dead.  It is not weak.  I can fight for justice with every fiber in my being.  Osama bin Laden died and I do not regret this.  You can fight to get your job back that you lost unfairly.  You can confront those you love who have wronged you.  You can prosecute the people who abuse the helpless.  It is not simply one or the other.  You can fight.  And remembering how you were loved, you too can love your enemies.

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